Employee Retention

Long long ago, in mostly every part of the world, people would start and end their careers with the same company. In other words, when a person joined a company, they would work there until they retired. Loyalty to an employer wasn’t necessarily the reason. Staying with a company for a lifetime was the culture. That culture changed.

Employees need a reason to continue working with a company and when the reasons are not compelling, there’s nothing holding them back. Companies end up spending a lot of resources when they need to hire new talent. Companies also face significant loses when talented people leave. Yet many companies don’t try hard enough to make strong employees stay. Different companies have different reasons for weak retention strategies but the common one is the belief that it is not tough to find a replacement.

I support strategic change. Letting go of employees when you need to progress beyond them is wise but giving strong performing employees reasons to stay is equally wise. These reasons are not hard to guess.

Life balance: Workaholics are no longer considered cool. People are beginning to take pride in their work-life balance. And companies that offer that balance are more attractive even to workaholics. Work-life balance could include paid time off which employees can actually use, flexible work hours, work from home options for new mothers, break rooms and opportunities to refresh at work. The culture of the workplace can be used to judge how much employees are valued. Feeling valued makes the work load and demands of the job seem worth the effort.

Compensation: Have you reviewed a company’s careers section recently? Most of them list their salaries as ‘competitive with benefits’. And most of them keep that promise. But mostly to new hires. When an employee is part of a company for a few years already, it’s cheaper to retain them because companies don’t need to pay them as much. Or so employers think and employees know this for a fact. Unless they are lazy or loyal, they are not going to let their skills remain overused and underpaid. Even when companies do not pay the higher amount they would to a new hire, it’s wise to continue being ‘competitive with benefits’ with competent existing employees.

Additional incentives for excellent performance is also a key reason for competent people to stay longer with a company. This is not necessarily the same as encouraging competition but it does help employees who perform better to stick around.

Growth: Opportunities for learning and development is a big retention tool in addition to all the other benefits it offers to the company and employees. A college degree is no longer the upper limit for learning. The opportunities that the company provides for learning and development play a big role in an employee’s decision to stay with the company. The saying “if you can’t pay them, promote them”, is more common now and sometimes it works. Companies that cannot support the growth and development of competent employees will lose them sooner than companies that have growth trajectories in place.

Team: Surprisingly team bonding has retained more employees than we care to admit. If an employee feels a sense of belonging and has colleagues whom they can call friends at the workplace, leaving becomes harder.

Supervisor: Immediate supervisors can be the deal-breaker or deal-maker when it comes to the decision to stay with a company. Leadership style can build trust and create reasons for employees to stay with a company. Clear and transparent communication from leaders is also key to a healthy work culture. It stifles rumors and doubts and encourages trust towards the company. There’s truth in the statement that employees don’t quit companies, they quit managers.

Other reasons included pride in the company’s brand; belief company’s mission/vision; and no better options.

As an employer, it is wise to value employees and give them reasons to stay. After all without them, no work can be accomplished. As an employee it is good for you to evaluate your reasons to stay with a company and find motivation in that. And if you don’t, well, you don’t.

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